The creative world is criss-crossed by dazzling, visionary minds, overturning the established order to impose a new field of possibilities. These beings, won over by grace, overturn what has been achieved in order to elevate it, and authorize a new creation free of all constraints. Some appeal to genius to explain their dazzling brilliance, while others line up behind reason to rationalize their talent, but only time can inscribe them securely in history. Alongside the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Debussy, the world of rock includes BB King, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck. Revolutionizing everything thought possible with an electric guitar, they transformed rock and paved the way for entire generations of musicians. Jeff Beck was one of them: he made the six-string instrument his own in an absolutely revolutionary way, establishing a new conception of playing and sound. A master of finger-style playing and vibrato, Jeff Beck had a unique, unmistakable sound, and always pushed back the boundaries of what was possible. His visceral relationship with the instrument was shaped by a specific model: the Fender Stratocaster. This Strat Graffiti Yellow is an exceptional guitar that accompanied Jeff Beck between 1986 and 1989, and corresponds to Fender's first signature series. It's a direct testimony to Jeff Beck's guitar design, which made the Strat a symbol of the sonic possibilities enabled by the electric guitar.
Jeff Beck is one of the most influential musicians of all time. Throughout his successful career, he has pushed the boundaries of what is possible to make the guitar an instrument of perpetual innovation. This Strat Graffiti Yellow is a unique guitar designed and built by the Fender Custom Shop in the late 1980s. It is a direct testimony to Jeff Beck's relentless pursuit of perfection and novelty.
In February 1986, Jeff Beck attended a presentation by Fender at the Hilton Hotel in London. He was presented with the idea of creating artist signature series guitars. Following the presentation, Beck asked Fender for a special guitar for his upcoming tour in Japan later that year. His main requests for a guitar were a very large neck and a yellow body, so as to match his replica 1932 Ford Hotrod Coupe car form the film “American Graffii”. He chose a '62 Reissue Stratocaster with an oversized neck. The guitar was fitted with an American Standard Tremolo, a 60's eleven-screw white scratchplate and 60's pickups, and made its live debut when Beck used it on tour in Japan in August 1986.
Jeff Beck continued to work with the Fender Custom Shop (which was founded in 1987). After some back and forth of the guitar and parts, important modifications were implemented on the guitar around 1987-88. Keeping the original 1986 body, the Standard American Bridge was removed and replaced with a prototype two-point pivot tremolo fitted with a new one-off neck, with early edition Sperzel Star locking tuners which were still in development. Fender’s main aim was to get these newest features into Beck's hands to test.
Following the guitar's return to Beck, it was this new combination that can be seen very clearly in rock photographer Robert M. Knight's promotional photo of Jeff Beck, Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas taken at Prince's Paisley Park Studio in May 1989. Soon after this, the guitar appears on stage with Beck during his Japan tour in August of 1989 as part of his 'Guitar Shop' tour. Beck and the guitar can be seen on the covers of CDs associated with this tour and on the cover of the Japanese magazine 'Young Guitar' from November 1989. Following Beck's 1989 Japan tour, Beck decided against having a signature model and the project ended and the guitar was returned to Fender. However, in around 1990 it restarted again when they repaired the neck and it was fitted with the latest Lace Sensors, making it become the prototype for the Fender Strat Plus model. Fender sent Beck the finished guitar.
The guitar we have today is therefore a combination of the original tour-used body from 1986 together with the tour-used neck and components from 1989. Having started life off as a '62 Reissue Stratocaster, the guitar has been a working project between Fender and Beck, and has ended up as a Strat Plus. The guitar's electronics also include a master volume control, two tone controls, and a five-way pickup selector switch, allowing for a wide range of tonal possibilities, typical of Beck's playing style.
Following his tours, the guitar remained with Beck until 1994 when he met flying instructor Suzy O'Hara at his 50th birthday party. The two began a relationship when she agreed to teach him how to fly at in Kent. During their relationship between 1994-1996, Jeff wanted to teach Suzy how to play the guitar, and so it was at this time he gifted her this Fender guitar. Suzy O'Hara then recalls that during their lessons, Jeff praised the qualities of this Strat's neck, saying it had "an incredible feel" and that he'd like to have it back to swap with another, but they were never able to make that swap, and the guitar still has that original, unique neck that he appreciated so much. The guitar has been in O'Hara's possession ever since.
This signature Stratocaster Graffiti Yellow prototype is a guitar of great significance, acting as a milestone for both the Jeff Beck signature and the Strat Plus, and making it a key witness in the career of Jeff Beck and in the history of the Fender Custom Shop. The collaboration between the two has resulted in an instrument that encapsulates Jeff Beck's sound and playing style, while illustrating the Custom Shop's dedication to craftsmanship and innovation. This Graffiti Yellow guitar is an exceptional testament to the enduring legacy of one of the world's most influential guitarists, who took this guitar and shaped it to suit his tastes, inspirations and playing habits.